William E. Thornton, an astronaut, died aged 91 years. His son, Simon Thornton, has fond memories of his father as he learned about engines from his father at a young age. Simon stated that when working on their car, his father would explain the car’s mechanisms and how everything worked. His father would explain to him the ignition coils’ working, points collapsing, and how sparks were generated from the coil to the spark plug.

Simon stated that he is proud of his father’s legacy, especially as an innovator and his contribution to the exploration of outer space. Dr. William E. Thornton, a retired astronaut and a professor in medicine, passed away at the age of 91, and he left behind a remarkable legacy at NASA. Dr. Thornton became an astronaut in 1967, and he had attained more than 300 hours in space. The Doctor played a pivotal role in influencing the evolution of space life sciences and had patents on a shuttle flight and waste collection facility.

Before his retirement in1994, William had a close working relationship with NASA, especially its biomedical laboratory teams, where they teamed up in areas dealing with space adaption sickness, lower body negative pressure, muscle atrophy, and exercise. The Doctor was born in 1929 to parents who conventionally were past the typical age of having children as the father was in his 60s and the mother in her 40s. His father passed away when he was ten years of age, and while growing, he worked in cotton fields. He studied in Faison High School, and he later opened up a radio repair shop in town. William saved his profits and used them to pay for his tuition at the University of North Carolina –Chapel Hill, where he graduated with a bachelor’s in physics.

He would later join the United States Air Force, where he served as the USAF Instrumentation Laboratory officer at the Flight Test Air Proving Ground at Elgin Air Force Base, Fla. While he was working on how to improve air-to-air combat, Thornton made the discovery that rockets could be tracked by radar, which prompted the development of the Radar Optic Firing Error Indicator. This discovery led to the Doctor being awarded the Legion of Merit in 1956 while a Second Lieutenant.

As an inventor, Thornton has more than 60 issued patents, which include varied applications from military weapons systems to Real-time EKG computer analysis. Though his work made him move around so much, Thornton never forgot his hometown, and he came back to plant over 8,000 pine trees in 2000 so as to bring back a forest that existed when he was a youth.


By Adam